Indian Massacres, Bengal Famine, British Taxes, and Patriots Otis, Warren, & Hancock – American Minute with Bill Federer

The French and Indian War ended in 1763 with the French forced to cede to the British all of Canada and the land from the Appalachian Mountains west to the Mississippi River.

The French had cultivated friendly relations with the Indians by giving them gifts, but the new British Commander-in-Chief in North America, Jeffery Amherst, treated the Indians as conquered peoples.

Disgruntled tribes united against the British:

  • Ottawas,
  • Ojibwas,
  • Potawatomis,
  • Hurons,
  • Miamis,
  • Weas,
  • Kickapoos,
  • Mascoutens,
  • Piankashaws,
  • Delawares,
  • Shawnees,
  • Wyandots,
  • Mingos, and
  • some Iroquois.

As the most prominent leader was Ottawa chief Pontiac, it was called Pontiac’s War.

For three years, from 1763 to 1766, surprise attacks occurred from Virginia and Pennsylvania to Ohio and the Great Lakes.

Indians captured, tortured, scalped, burned at the stake, and even cannibalized some, in ambushes, such as

  • Devil’s Hole Massacre,
  • Enoch Brown School Massacre,
  • Fort Sandusky Massacre,
  • Hochstetler Massacre,
  • Fort William Henry Massacre,
  • Clendenin Massacre,
  • Point Pelee, and
  • Battle of Bloody Run.

Indians attacked and laid siege to:

  • Fort Detroit (Detroit, Michigan)
  • Fort Pitt (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
  • Fort Bedford (Bedford, Pennsylvania)
  • Fort Ligonier (Ligonier, Pennsylvania)
  • Fort Niagara (Youngstown, New York).

Indians completely overran, captured or destroyed 8 British forts:

  • Fort Sandusky (Venice, Ohio)
  • Fort St. Joseph (Niles, Michigan)
  • Fort Miami (Fort Wayne, Indiana)
  • Fort Ouiatenon (Lafayette, Indiana)
  • Fort Michilimackinac (Mackinaw City, Michigan)
  • Fort Venango (Franklin, Pennsylvania)
  • Fort Le Boeuf (Waterford, Pennsylvania)
  • Fort Presque Isle (Erie, Pennsylvania).

2,500 soldiers and colonists were killed or captured, and 4,000 more were forced to flee for their lives.

Tragically, peaceful Christian Indians were caught in the middle.

In Western Pennsylvania, near Lancaster, a vigilante group of Paxton Boys indiscriminately retaliated, killing Christian Susquehannock Indians in the Conestoga Massacre.

Benjamin Franklin published a tract condemning the lawless acts of Paxton Boys in 1764.

British General Jeffrey Amherst was replaced with General Thomas Gage, who finally negotiated an end to Pontiac’s War.

The cry for protection against Indian attacks, rumored to have been instigated by French sympathizers, convinced King George the Third to leave large numbers of British troops in the American colonies.

In 1770, the British East India Company was on the verge of bankruptcy due the Great Famine in Bengal which killed an estimated 10 million.

It was caused by the combination of a failed monsoon, loss of rice crops, and exploitive British East India Company policies.

Parliament allowed the British East India Company to recoup their loss, resulting in prohibitive taxes and acts on the American colonies:

  • Sugar Tax of 1764,
  • Currency Act of 1764,
  • Stamp Tax of 1765,
  • Quartering Act of 1765,
  • Declaratory Act of 1766,
  • Townshend Revenue Acts of 1767, taxing glass, paint and paper.

As the Colonies had no representative in Parliament, the cry arose, “No taxation without representation.”

James Otis wrote in “The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved,” 1764:

“If every prince since Nimrod had been a tyrant, it would not prove a right to tyrannize.

There can be no prescription old enough to supersede the law of nature and the grant of GOD Almighty, who has given to all men a natural right to be free …

The colonists are by the law of nature freeborn, as indeed all men are, white or black …

Does it follow that tis right to enslave a man because he is black? … Nothing better can be said in favor of a trade that is the most shocking violation of the law of nature … and makes every dealer in it a tyrant, from the director of an African company to the petty chapman (merchant) in needles and pins on the unhappy coast.

It is a clear truth that those who everyday barter away other men’s liberty will soon care little for their own …

That the colonists, black and white, born here are freeborn British subjects, and entitled to all the essential civil rights …

Now can there be any liberty where property is taken away without consent? …”

Otis continued:

“Has this whole continent of … millions of … good, loyal, and useful subjects, white and black … the election of one member of the House of Commons? …

I say men, for in a state of nature no man can take my property from me without my consent: if he does, he deprives me of my liberty and makes me a slave.

… The very act of taxing exercised over those who are not represented appears to me to be depriving them of one of their most essential rights as freemen …

The sum of my argument is: that civil government is of God …

that no parts of His Majesty’s dominions can be taxed without their consent; that every part has a right to be represented in the supreme or some subordinate legislature.”

The King imposed Writs of Assistance in 1765 allowing British authorities to:

  • open and read citizen’s personal correspondence;
  • arrest anybody, anytime, anywhere on any suspicion; and
  • detain them indefinitely.

Citizens could have their houses, property and farms taken without a warrant or due process – seize first, then ask questions later.

In the Massachusetts Superior Court, in February 24, 1761, James Otis, Jr., spoke against the Writs of Assistance for nearly five hours.

Otis argued:

“I will to my dying day oppose with all the powers and faculties God has given me all such instruments of slavery on the one hand, and villainy on the other, as this WRIT OF ASSISTANCE is.

It appears to me the worst instrument of arbitrary power, the most destructive of English liberty and the fundamental principles of law.”

Thirty years later, John Adams wrote of witnessing James Otis’ speech:

“The child independence was then and there born, (for) every man of an immense crowded audience appeared to me to go away as I did, ready to take arms against WRITS OF ASSISTANCE.”

As there were no barracks, the British Parliament imposed the Quartering Act of 1765, which allowed British troops to forcibly enter colonists’ homes and farms to lodge or “quarter,” leaving families to live in barns, basements or attics.

As colonists became resistant, General Thomas Gage, Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in America, was ordered to bring them into submission.

British Statesman Edmund Burke described Gage’s orders:

“An Englishman is the unfittest person on Earth to argue another Englishman into slavery.”

Gage blamed ring leader Samuel Adams, who he first attempted to buy off, but was rebuffed.

He then blamed the numerous town hall meetings and worked to abolish them, writing “democracy is too prevalent in America.”

General Gage identified Boston as the source of political tension and relocated more British troops there.

On March 5, 1770, a mob formed in Boston to protest.

In the confusion, British troops fired into the crowd, killing five, one of which was the black American patriot, Crispus Attucks.

This became known as the Boston Massacre.

Paul Revere’s popular engraving of the Boston Massacre fanned flames of anti-British sentiment.

On the 2nd anniversary of the Boston Massacre, 1772, the President of Massachusetts’ Colonial Congress was Dr. Joseph Warren, who would later send Paul Revere on his midnight ride and who would be killed at the Battle of Bunker Hill.

Dr. Joseph Warren stated:

“If you perform your part, you must have the strongest confidence that the same Almighty Being who protected your pious and venerable forefathers … will still be mindful of you …

May our land be a land of liberty … until the last shock of time shall bury the empires of the world in one common undistinguishable ruin!”

In 1773, British imposed the Tea Act, resulting in the Boston Tea Party, and in 1774, the Intolerable Coercive Acts.

Colonial America was like ancient Israel in that every man was in the militia, ready at a moment’s notice to defend his family and his community.

When they rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem, “the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side.”

And the commoners who joined David in exile were armed, “archers using both the right and left to sling stones and to shoot arrows” and “experts with the shield and spear.”

On the 4th anniversary of the Boston Massacre, 1774, John Hancock, who would be the first to sign the Declaration of Independence, stated:

“Will not a well-disciplined militia afford you ample security against foreign foes?

We want (lack) not courage; it is discipline alone in which we are exceeded by the most formidable troops that ever trod the earth …

A well-disciplined militia is a safe, an honorable guard to a community like this, whose inhabitants are by nature brave, and are laudably tenacious of that freedom in which they were born.

From a well-regulated militia we have nothing to fear; their interest is the same with that of the State.

When a country is invaded, the militia are ready to appear in its defense; they march into the field with that fortitude which a consciousness of the justice of their cause inspires …”

Hancock continued, contrasting the American colonist with the British soldier:

“They do not jeopard their lives for a master who considers them only as the instruments of his ambition, and whom they regard only as the daily dispenser of the scanty pittance of bread and water.

No; they fight for their houses, their lands, for their wives, their children; for all who claim the tenderest names, and are held dearest in their hearts; they fight pro aris et focis (Latin: “for our altars and our hearths” or “for God and country”), for their liberty, and for themselves, and for their God …

We have all one common cause … the security of the liberties of America.

And may the same kind Providence which has watched over this country from her infant state still enable us to defeat our enemies!”

Some were enticed by bribes from British General Thomas Gage to betray the American cause, such as Dr. Benjamin Church.

John Hancock added:

“I cannot here forbear noticing the signal manner in which the designs of those who wish not well to us have been discovered.

The dark deeds of a treacherous cabal have been brought to public view.

You now know the serpents who, whilst cherished in your bosoms, were darting the envenomed stings into the vitals of the constitution …”

Hancock continued, using Biblical references:

“But the representatives of the people have fixed a mark on these ungrateful monsters, which, though it may not make them so secure as Cain of old, yet renders them, at least, as infamous …

Surely you never will tamely suffer this country to be a den of thieves. Remember, my friends, from whom you sprang …

Not only that ye pray, but that ye act; that, if necessary, ye fight, and even die, for the prosperity of our Jerusalem.

Break in sunder, with noble disdain, the bonds with which the Philistines have bound you.

… Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed, by the soft arts of luxury and effeminacy, into the pit digged for your destruction …

I thank God that America abounds in men who are superior to all temptation, whom nothing can divert from a steady pursuit of the interest of their country …

Let us catch the divine enthusiasm … of delivering the oppressed from the iron grasp of tyranny; of changing the hoarse complaints and bitter moans of wretched slaves into those cheerful songs, which freedom and contentment must inspire.

There is a heartfelt satisfaction in reflecting on our exertions for the public weal (good), which all the sufferings an enraged tyrant can inflict will never take away …

The virtuous asserter of the rights of mankind merits a reward …

I have the most animating confidence that the present noble struggle for liberty will terminate gloriously for America …”

John Hancock concluded:

“And let us play the man for our God, and for the cities of our God; while we are using the means in our power,

let us humbly commit our righteous cause to the great Lord of the Universe, who loveth righteousness and hateth iniquity.

And having secured the approbation of our hearts, by a faithful and unwearied discharge of our duty to our country, let us joyfully leave our concerns in the hands of Him who raiseth up and pulleth down the empires and kingdoms of the world as He pleases; and with cheerful submission to his sovereign will, devoutly say:

‘Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the field shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls; yet we will rejoice in the Lord, we will joy in the God of our salvation.'”